This is an article written especially for the QuadFiles by Ms. Ida Esh’t, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio title holder for 1987-88. She is now State Coordinator for the Ms. Wheelchair Arizona Program.
Passion for My Wheels
Sandy said, “Ida, this is not like other pageants, in fact the pageant is all about eliminating barriers and creating positive attitudes.”
I started using a wheelchair when I was 27 years old my sons were nine and three. Soon after my chair arrived we went to the mall and it was there that my three year old son leaned over to me and stated, “Mommy why do people look at you, they look at your wheelchair and turn away?” Astonished by his observation at such an early age, it was then I had an epiphany, realizing I had to command eye contact for people to see me and take their focus off my wheelchair.
In 1985, I attended my first Ohio Governor’s Conference on Persons with Disabilities. My roommate Sandy and I, whom I had never met before, were walking through the exhibit area when we came upon an exhibit entitled Ms. Wheelchair Ohio. The ladies behind the table immediately asked me to be a contestant. I gave a jovial laugh and respectfully received their information, never intending to go any further with this potential endeavor. Later that evening, Sandy asked me if I had read over the literature for MWO and she asked if I would consider applying. With my nervous laughter I stated, “no, I can’t do that. I am not pretty enough, I’m married, I’m working to put my husband through school and I’m raising two little guys. Besides I am so busy with maintaining all the support groups I’m involved with I just do not have the time.” Sandy said, “Ida, this is not like other pageants, in fact the pageant is all about eliminating barriers and creating positive attitudes.” She continued, “Ida God has given you a beautiful message to share with others about your experiences and the negative attitudes you have confronted since using a wheelchair. You really need to consider doing this and let God use you through this venue.”
Throughout our time together, Sandy kept encouraging me to fill out the application. When I arrived home, I spoke with my husband and sons about this wonderful program. They became excited and encouraged me to apply. I filled out the paperwork and sent it in only to receive a letter back stating that the program would be postponed for one year. In the meantime, my husband was accepted into a medical program at Ohio State University and we moved to Columbus. The move meant my sons going through induction of a new school, teachers and classmates.
Since becoming a mother, I have been extremely sensitive to how children make fun of each other especially when differences are seen. Therefore, being the person I am, I never wanted my sons to be embarrassed of me because I walked differently from other mothers, so I contacted my eldest son’s school and asked if I could have the opportunity to speak with his classmates about persons with disabilities. I was shocked when the teacher responded with, “No, that is not necessary. My students know all about you handicapped people.” The words stung as the words resonated in my mind, “you handicapped people”.
I was shocked when the teacher responded with, “No, that is not necessary. My students know all about you handicapped people.” The words stung as the words resonated in my mind, “you handicapped people”.
I share this true story because of the remarkable things that took place in my life within one week of being crowned. One of the first telephone calls I received was a request from my son’s school principal. He invited me to speak at his school. Not to my sons classmates, but to the entire student body. I thought to myself, ‘What changed? Was I different?’ I was still a mother who loved her sons and wanted to educate my son’s classmates. So, what had happened?
What had changed was a panel of five judges selected me to hold the title of Ms. Wheelchair Ohio for one year. And I did change during that year as doors of opportunity I never imagined opened for me to share the message God had given me. First and foremost, I truly believe God gave me wheels so I could wear high heels and pretty shoes and I love them. In truth, I seriously believe that life is a gift and my physicians informed me if I desired to give and maintain this beautiful gift I had then I would need to use a wheelchair to continue forth in this life. I hope and know that several positive things happened in Ohio for me that year and the years which have followed have been tremendous. I just wish I could thank Laurie and Dee, the two ladies who ran the Ohio program.
Ms. Wheelchair Arizona
My passion for the Ms. Wheelchair programs continues to deepen as I have witnessed time and time again the lives of beautiful women evolving as they compete for the title. Their experiences they have encountered, their personal growth, making a difference, a positive difference in other people’s lives as the result of this title. I continue to be amazed at the impact this title is having on women and little girls who happen to use a wheelchair to walk. This is why my passion is at the very grain of who I am as a woman with a disability trying to make a difference and create an opportunity for other women to make a difference.
I, along with a wonderful group of people are building two beautiful programs: The Ms. Wheelchair Arizona Program and the Little Miss Wheelchair Program. May the women throughout our state take the opportunity to truly be all they can be in using this venue to make a difference, a positive difference for today and our future.
Agents of Change
As women with a disability, the changes we make today are truly for the children of today. Very soon our children with disabilities will become our future adults. Personally, I do not want them to fight for curb cuts, or parking places, or a higher standard of education and socialization, equal employment opportunities, adequate housing, affordable transportation, acceptable medical examinations and accessible health care. Throughout my life, as well as the lives of many other individuals, we have confronted stereotyping, myths, discrimination, negative attitudes, inadequate housing, education, transportation, employment, and medical care when we walk outside into the public arena.
The Road of Opportunity
As Ms. Wheelchair of whatever state, the titleholder has the unique opportunity to make a difference, a huge difference in addressing the needs of our peers and younger generations. I learned early on that the title I held as Ms. Wheelchair Ohio afforded me the opportunity to represent a vast majority of people. I thank God for enabling me to meet the challenges, to make a positive difference and the encouragement to experience one of the best years of my life. The impact of this experience changed my life forever and I am thankful for the many lessons I have learned and the thousands of people I have met throughout the years.
It is our hope and desire to enable other women in Arizona to be all they can be with the beautiful life God has given them to share with others. Ms. Wheelchair enables women between the ages of 21-60, who use a wheelchair for daily mobility to make a difference. As women in Arizona, who happen to have a disAbility up, we must be up to the challenge to make a better world.
Make a Difference!
Want to make a positive lifetime difference for yourself and others? If so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Embracing our differences create positive change for our future. It is the attitudes we hold within that enables us to soar beyond our imaginations, sometimes it just takes the right attitude and title.
For more information, Please contact Ida and check out the MWCAZ website, http://mswheelchairarizona.org